Gig ticker     Chris Tye, Vijay Kishore, Suzi & The Backbeats at Rainbow Venues for MacMillan and British Heart Foundation B'Ham May 8th...     360 (2 sets) at Hare & Hounds B'ham May 9th...     Boat To Row at Rainbow B'ham May 22nd...     Rhino & The Ranters at Dark Horse B'ham May 22nd  band interview and live audio...     

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Rumbles in the radio jungle

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Tricky times for pop radio


If you look at what's playing at radio, you'll mostly find bleakly repetitive fare. 

Further down this post, I've got an analysis of five stations (three West Midlands analogue, two national digital), with their current most-played artists, taken from the Compare My Radio site. Everyone is playing youth diva Taylor Swift. Four of the five are playing Sam Smith. 

It's a typical pattern; has been for years. Most commercial stations go for safe, reliable and familiar. It's the McDonalds way: familiarity and repetition. Punters know what to expect; the brand is crystal-clear. 

But the web came along and overturned the applecart. And now, news that came out last week could have huge implications for the industry. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A conversation with Swami: Simon & Diamond and S-Endz

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A brand new band that's been going since 1999

Two months back, I compiled a local YouTube chart. It's a labour of love, and I can miss things. Happily, I'm usually swiftly corrected. S-Endz duly pointed out that his band, Swami, had scored very decent views for their new video. So I fixed things, bouncing the bottom entry (sorry, lads) to present a revised 50. And started thinking about Swami. 

There's lots of Asian bands in the West Midlands. But normally they aim squarely at Asian markets; Swami are different. Malkit Singh may sell millions worldwide to Bhangra fans, but Swami aren't cut from that cloth, not remotely. For a start, they're cross-cultural, in the grand Birmingham tradition. The website is slick and impressive. 

A swift introduction by Sharnita Athwal at Shaanti, and I'm sitting with Simon and Diamond Duggal, joined later by S-Endz. Swami has been Simon and Diamond's project, since 1999.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The game is changing: Goodnight Lenin

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Goodnight Lenin want feedback on their new songs. See them in the bar afterwards. Oh, and there's three, count 'em, three festivals to talk about. With the Monkees?

The challenge for all performers is to know when it's going well, and why. That's why I so admire people who make great music. It's not just the uncanny talent. It's the pressure to perform, to deliver. Not only that: you have to work out how it's going: you have to manage it all. 

This blog doesn't just celebrate moments of inspiration and warmth, but also the stagecradt that goes with it. To have the balls to take your visions and dreams out to an audience, to lay it out in public, is one thing. That's where it really starts. That's when the game changes.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Destroyers lay fresh foundations

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Eight years of constant change, and the band's hungrier than ever.

I'm sitting in the snug in legendary Moseley music boozer The Prince of Wales, with Leighton Hargreaves, Max Gittings and Aaron Diaz, three long-term members of the Destroyers. It's appropriate: if anything is, it's the band's home base. It's where members come to play at the open sessions; it's where they put on their legendary Christmas/New Year shows.

Now, after what seems like an uncomfortably long time, there's good news to report: the band are issuing an EP, on local label Stoney Lane. There may be more to follow, possibly building up to an album. And there's a tour planned out.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Horace Panter. Special.

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He still loves it, all of it. 


Horace Panter is great company: courteous and affable. He is hugely knowledgeable about music and musicians, both local and further afield. He plays in three and a bit bands: blues band Blues 2 Go, and straight-up ska outfit Uptown Ska Collective. And he's also working with Champion Doug Veitch, collaborating with Martin Bell, once of The Wonder Stuff. 

But the big band is, of course, The Specials, who started in 1977, reformed in 2008, and are now bigger than ever. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Beyond the band #3: Pete Williams

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Nicely connected after a lifetime of rock and roll ups, downs and setbacks, Pete Williams is punching out fabulous songs.


It didn't start with his bass work with Dexy's Midnight Runners in the 80s, or even through the revived Dexy's in the Noughties and again in 2012. But often that's all that you read about him. Pete played in both bands, and people always want to talk about the juicy stuff.

There's a lot more. Williams has just come out with his second, very successfully crowd-funded, album, Roughnecks and Roustabouts, and he's doing shows, on the road in his own name. The past may be lurid and colourful, although much of it is not of his own making. But it's what's come out of that past now that matters.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Catching the buzz: Rhino and The Ranters

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That critical moment when it all starts to work...

Assuming there's merit and talent in a band, and that the band then backs it up with graft and a bit of a marketing push, there's usually a point when word gets out. Suddenly, big numbers show up for gigs. Suddenly, the name gets bandied around. Suddenly, there are faces turning up to check out the new boys on the block. Suddenly, people you tend to listen to are mentioning them.

Last week, at Dylan Gibbons' Blues Night at the Spotted Dog, you could see the signs. There were faces aplenty, come to take a look at Rhino and The Ranters. And it was a cracking gig. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Curtis Little: goodbye to one of the greats

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On Friday, I went to another funeral. 

It was to send the great Curtis Little on his way, and to celebrate his life. 

When I landed in Birmingham, two generations ago, I was taken, very early, by Slender Loris, a band that mixed complex intelligent songs with delivery, from Curtis, that was punchy as hell. 

As a DJ, I couldn't believe my luck: a voice like that? On my patch?

Whip-thin, all sinew and muscle, not a spare ounce on his frame, Curtis was the epitome of a front man. He had a voice to die for, rich, soulful, deep, and he really knew how to use it. Where it came from, God only knows. But he was a joy to watch. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Old folks boogie: astute business by Ricky Cool

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Wander into Broad Street's Brasshouse at the right time, and you're in for a treat. A free treat. 

    Photo: Birmingham Post 
It's weird. Broad Street Birmingham is the last place I'd expect to see decent live music. The place swapped Ronnie Scott's jazz venue for a lap-dancing club, just when Birmingham was trying to get City Of Culture. The place is full of loud chain pubs, industrial dance joints, karaoke bars and some very iffy catering. You go there to drink, lots.

As the night wears on, Broad Street becomes Purgatory Street: shrieking hen parties, testosterone morons in sports cars and quad bikes, pissed-up conventioneers and lads on the pull. Buses don't stop there now on Friday and Saturday nights. And just watch where you put your feet.

But on a Sunday lunchtime, once they've hosed it down and swept it up, it's a whole different place. In the Brasshouse, you can now catch, free, some of this city's most experienced bands, playing to an up for it, older, crowd. These aren't lame covers outfits who don't 'get' the music they serve up. These are players.

It's all good. And it's all been set up by local muso veteran, Ricky Cool.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The great BBC Midlands underspend: the Birmingham Post and Mail wade in

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Wow. FINALLY.


On Birmingham streets this week
I've written about this before. You may have already seen the posts; if so, I thank you. There are links to my main blog outpourings on this at the bottom of this post. 

Some background: the Campaign for Regional Broadcasting Midlands have been lobbying hard about this for some time now; they are absolutely right. But there has been little or no serious response, let alone attempts to address the issues raised. 

I'll sum it up: The BBC Midlands region sends more money down to headquarters in London that any other region, and gets an insultingly small amount spent back locally, way less than any other region. 

This has led to a collapse in the regional broadcast sector. It has done damage. It has stunted careers and jobs growth. 

Frustrating. How do you reverse arrogant and remote corporate mindsets and actions which have, very deliberately, crippled job prospects and hobbled creativity in the region?